Descriptions, ambiguity, and representationalist theories of interpretation

Philosophical Studies 162 (2):275-290 (2013)
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Abstract

Abstract   Theories of descriptions tend to involve commitments about the ambiguity of descriptions. For example, sentences containing descriptions are widely taken to be ambiguous between de re , de dicto , and intermediate interpretations and are sometimes thought to be ambiguous between the former and directly referential interpretations. I provide arguments to suggest that none of these interpretations are due to ambiguities (or indexicality). On the other hand, I argue that descriptions are ambiguous between the above family of interpretations and what may be called ‘institutional’ as well as generic interpretations. My arguments suggest that an adequate theory of descriptions may require considerable rethinking. Most contemporary theories of descriptions appear to be committed to one or more claims about the ambiguity of descriptions that I reject in this paper. I suggest that my observations provide a reason to renew efforts to develop a theory of descriptions within a representationalist theory of interpretation. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-16 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9759-5 Authors Philipp Koralus, Philosophy Department, Princeton University, 212 1879 Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116

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Philipp Koralus
Oxford University

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